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Verges' stand: No French, no hearing

For those of you who missed initial reports, Jacques Verges is still insisting that the court translate his client's entire case file into French.

"We hereby reiterate our firm position: we demand translation of the Khieu Samphan criminal file. As long as the translation is not done, the Co-Lawyers for the Defence are unable to cooperate with the court," Khieu's lawyers wrote in a recent memo to the tribunal.

The declaration came in response to a request for guidance from the pre-trial chamber. Khieu's April hearing was adjourned after Verges said he could not properly defend his client until thousands of pages of documents had been translated into French. In June, judges issued an order claiming that fully translating case files into the tribunal's three official lanuages would be an unnecessary burden on the court.

Nearly four months later, Khieu's appeal has yet to be heard.

So the court put Khieu's lawyers on notice this month, asking the defense to disclose "their readiness to proceed or preference for the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide without further hearing, or any other advice being given related to their appeal."

The response was penned Aug. 21. Defense lawyers have not changed their position.

"To the extent that no file is available in French, one of the official working languages, Khieu Samphan is deprived of his foreign lawyer for his defence," they wrote. "This is clearly a breach of Khieu Samphan's right to be defended."

 

However, a legal opinion from DC-Cam maintains that the court's decisions regarding translation have been in keeping with international standards.

"This issue should be thought of primarily in terms of the right of the defendant to have adequate facilities to prepare his defense rather than as a right of the attorney," writes Sadie Blanchard, a DC-Cam legal associate.

While other courts have agreed to translate important court documents into an attorney's preferred language, such decisions have not extended to every single page of a case file, Blanchard writes. And at the ECCC, where each defendant has access to both a national and foreign lawyer, a degree of linguistic cooperation is expected.

Legal principles support the court's suggestion that "if Jacques Verges was unable to work with his Cambodian co-counsel to address translation issues, Khieu's recourse is his ability to choose a different foreign attorney," according to Blanchard.

*Pictured: Jacques Verges.

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